(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 5/27/2021) Beanstalk, an indoor vertical farming start-up, is putting down roots in Herndon with plans to invest more than $2 million to open a facility and farm this fall.
The Virginia-based company is expanding and opening a “scaled-up version” of their existing farm in the Lorton/Springfield area right off of Herndon Parkway and near the impending Herndon Metro station, Beanstalk co-founder Michael Ross writes Reston Now in an email.
The Herndon location will have research, growing, and package operations.
“This new facility will produce the equivalent of over 50 acres of traditional farmland and allow us to expand into more local grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants,” said Ross, who founded Beanstalk with his brother Jack.
The company grows pesticide-free leafy greens and herbs year-round using robotics and hydroponic — or soil-less — growing technology. It says it saves space by growing in layers and vertically as opposed to horizontally.
Beanstalk sells its salad mixes and herbs at grocery stores, local farmers markets, and online.
Jack Ross was selected by Virginia for a STEAM catalyst award back in 2018 for his development of an automated indoor growing production system. The technology allows Beanstalk to “produce food four times as efficiently as traditional hydroponic farming,” according to a press release from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
The brothers opened their 3,000 square-foot Springfield/Lorton facility in 2018, and the company expects to have annual sales of over $5 million in the next three years.
“We have created a new technology that produces better tasting and more nutritious vegetables, herbs, and fruits than what are available today,” Ross said. “Our farms are also sustainable as they consume 95% less water, have zero chemical run-off, and are over 100 times more productive use of land.”
The company’s co-founders are in their 20s and both were raised in Alexandria, went to high school in D.C., and played youth sports across the region.
“I particularly spent a lot of time in Herndon and Reston in high school, which is how I originally got to know the area through events like the Herndon Festival,” said Ross, who studied aerospace engineering in college.
He tells Reston Now that they evaluated “dozens of cities” in the D.C. area for their expansion but decided on Herndon because of the town’s “incredible community” and prioritzation of sustainability.
“Herndon is a very unique place within Northern Virginia in that it feels like a small, close-knit town with all the benefits of a larger city,” he said.
Beanstalk is expected to create 29 jobs in Herndon, some of which are already open for hiring.
Positions currently open in Herndon include a director of research and a senior electrical engineer. Ross notes that other jobs will be available soon in engineering, research, and operations, and the company will be looking for farmers later this year.
“We look for people from all backgrounds who want to bring locally grown food to their community and are curious, ambitious, and skilled,” Ross said.
Beanstalk is receiving financial support from both the state and Fairfax County in the form of grants that total $200,000.
As expected, local leaders say they are thrilled that Beanstalk decided Herndon is the place for them to grow.
“We are always looking for innovative investments to move our economy forward in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said in the governor’s press release. “Beanstalk’s new facility will not only bring new jobs to the community, but it also is a creative solution to using advancements in technology to increase access to fresh food options.”
Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem also welcomed the Ross brothers and Beanstalk to town.
“Theirs is exactly the kind of innovative, jobs-producing business we are looking to attract to our town’s commercial sector, and we applaud their application of technology toward provision of healthy, locally-grown produce,” she said.
Beanstalk’s mission is not only to grow fresh produce using new, more-efficient, sustainable technology, but to provide food at its freshest, Ross says.
“By growing in a farm within the community, we deliver food at peak freshness, which ensures all the taste and nutrition of the food is there when you take your first bite,” he said.
Photo courtesy Michael Ross